Fair Trade

fair tradePack your wagon and get ready for a long journey! We made a little covered wagon and 2 sets of goods to go inside it. Then, we traveled to the story time store to do some good old-fashioned trading!

wagon and goodsWe read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. A farmer prepares for a journey, packing his ox cart with all the surplus things his family has produced throughout the year – wool, mittens, brooms, apples, etc. Then he sets off on a ten day journey to Portsmouth, where he sells everything (including the ox and the cart) and purchases items for his family especially (and this was very important when I was a little kid) 2 pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies. Pockets still full of coins, he returns to his farm and the beautiful cycle of seasons, work, and life begins again. It’s a lovely, lovely book.

For the wagon, you’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • An 8.5″ x 14″ piece of tagboard (optional)
  • 1 wagon wheel template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 piece of string (approximately 37″ long)
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Scissors, glue stick, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

For the goods, you’ll need:

  • 1 quilt template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 2 rectangles of brown construction paper
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1 small bunch of polyester fill
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 pieces of twine (mine were 57″ long)
  • 2 paper baking cups
  • Red & brown pom-poms (mine were medium-sized, about 0.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 trading post (more on this later!)

Begin with the wagon! Cut the top of the box off, and cut the sides down to about 3″ high.

wagon 1The next step is optional (but fun). Cut strips of tagboard to fit the sides of the box, draw wood grain patterns on each of them, and use tape, a glue stick, or hot glue to attach them to the sides of the box. Or you can go super simple and draw wood grain on the sides of the box. Or skip this step entirely and leave the box blank.

wagon 2Next, color and cut the wagon wheels from the template and tape or hot glue them to the box.Make sure the wheels are flush with the bottom of the box. Otherwise, the wagon won’t slide very well.

wagon 3Time for the pull string! It’s important to really attach this well, so you don’t have any pull string fails during your long journey. Cut a slit in the front of the wagon. Then, knot the end of the string (I used heavy kite string) and slide the knot into the slit. Tape the string to the inside of the box, and then put another piece of tape above the knot it’s really secure.

pull string stepsThe final step for the covered wagon is…the cover! Use colored masking tape to create two “bows” on the piece of card stock “canvas” (the bows are the wooden ribs that hold up the canvas on a real covered wagon).

bowsNow hot glue (or tape) the ends of the card stock canvas to the insides of the wagon. Be sure to adhere it no lower than 1″ from the top of the wagon (if the canvas is too low, it makes it hard to get the stuff in and out of your wagon).

attaching canvas topYour wagon is finished…now for the goods! Remember, you’ll be making two of each item (with the exception of the bag of wool). For the quilts, use markers to decorate and cut out the quilt template.

quiltsFor the broom, fringe 2 rectangles of brown construction paper, then wrap them around the bottom of the craft sticks. Attach the construction paper to the craft sticks with colored masking tape.

broomFor the bag of wool, cut the bottom off the paper lunch bag. You want the sides of the bag to be no taller than 3″. Open the bag and pop the polyester fill inside it.

woolFor the rope, simply coil and knot the two pieces of twine. Or don’t coil them and leave them loose. Plenty of kids did!

ropeFor the sacks of produce, fill two baking cups with red and brown pom-poms to represent apples and potatoes. Your wagon is ready to roll!

The ox-cart man traveled quite a long way to get to the market, so I decided to replicate that experience. I  set up a little store at the end of the an exhibit gallery that is adjacent to the entrance to our library. It’s a looong gallery, and I tucked the store off to one side, so I marked the way with red arrows made of colored masking tape.

The store consisted of a copy paper box lid stocked with some fun doodads – shells, spotted feathers, large gemstones, finger puppets (left over from this program) tiaras made out of pipe cleaners, gro-dinosaurs, and cake erasers left over from this story time.

trading postKids could trade 3 things in their wagons for 3 things in the store. With 20 kids at story time, did a pretty brisk business that day.

shoppersThen, laden with goodies, the wagons headed off home (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea)!

wagons heading home

Love Is In The Air

cupidA cupid on a ladder, some strewn hearts, a sweet little keepsake box…

valentines box

 Some love letters…

love letters

You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to make someone feel special. “I love you” is all year round!

We read Love, Ruby Valentine written by Laurie B. Friedman and illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath (Carolrhoda Books, 2006). Ruby Valentine and her pet bird, Lovebird, absolutely LOVE Valentine’s Day. As the holiday draws near, Ruby goes into a frenzy – baking, wrapping gifts, making cards, curling ribbon, and choosing the perfect outfit. Unfortunately, she’s so exhausted by her preparations that when she stops to rest she accidentally sleeps through Valentine’s! When she awakes, she’s horrified and saddened to realize she missed it. Fortunately, Lovebird convinces her to carry on. Ruby makes her deliveries a day late and…no one seems to mind! Ruby learns that you don’t have to wait until Valentine’s to tell someone you love them. Go ahead and tell them all year round!

Kids were a little surprised when I told them that it was Valentine’s in July, but once they heard the story and understood its message, they eagerly joined in the fun.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • A love letters template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white card stock
  • Red, pink, purple, and yellow construction paper
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • Paper doilies
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • Paper baking cups
  • Heart stickers
  • A selection of curling ribbon
  • A selection of fabric ribbon
  • A selection of craft tie
  • A selection of pipe cleaners
  • A selection of sparkle stems
  • A selection of small feathers
  • The Bling Bin
  • A ladder (ours was 8′ high)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We started by decorating the boxes. This was a free-form art supply “buffet” that kids could pick and choose from. In designing my box, I went for a classic red and white number.

valentines boxIn addition to the art supplies in the list above, I told kids that if there was something else they wanted, to please come and ask. Only one kid took me up on this offer. A little girl who, for some reason, wanted wiggle eyes on her box. To say “Eye love you” perhaps?

wiggle eyesAs the final touches were put on the boxes, I handed out the love letter templates, instructing everyone to decorate them, cut them out, and put them in their boxes to take home. Later, they could use them to infuse their homes with some L-O-V-E.

And now for the main event – the strewing of the hearts. I prepared for it by cutting a slew of construction paper hearts (about 2″ high) from red, pink, purple, and yellow construction paper.

hearts ready to goIMPORTANT! After you finish cutting a heart, make sure you soft fold it down the middle. Unlike a hard fold, where you push the paper down so the sides meet (and run your finger along the fold to create a sharp crease), a soft fold consists of gently folding the paper, but not letting the sides touch.

heart foldThis step might seem superfluous, but after some testing I determined that a soft folded heart will flutter and fall better than a non-folded (or hard folded) heart, making it easier for kids to see and catch.

We gave Mr. Ian a pair of cupid wings and sent him up a ladder, where he cheerfully strewed hearts to kids, who caught them in their boxes and hands.

spreading the loveThen, in a serenade of violins, cupid departed, taking his 8′ aluminum ladder with him…

cupid departs

 

Island Science

islandThis charming little island really floats! Thanks to some well-placed wine corks, the island (and 2 little sailboats) will bob away in your bathtub, pool, or water table. This project is also a good way to introduce a some science terms to the story time set – namely, prediction, testing, saturation, buoyancy, and capillary action.

floating islandWe read An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Greenwillow Books, 2006). This non-fiction rhyming book follows the growth of an island from the first tremors of an underwater volcano to a busy and colorful island community. Don’t miss the last page which is full of the scientific information behind the book’s charming rhymes. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”)
  • 1 box cutter
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 3 small fabric squares (approximately 2″-3″)
  • 3 short pieces of thin ribbon (approximately 3″)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 8″ x 9″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Brown construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • 20 wine corks
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your island home. Use the box cutter to cut a door and three windows in the sides of a box. Decorate the outside of the box with markers and add a roof of patterned paper (or construction paper). Use tape (or hot glue) to attach fabric squares to the insides of the box, right above each window. Knot a piece of ribbon around the fabric squares to create a window sash. Finish by hot gluing a small shell to the door to serve as a doorknob.

houseNow for your palm tree! Start by cutting 3″ off the top of a paper towel tube. If you’d like, you can use markers to draw rings around the tree. Next, cut 4 rectangles from the green construction paper (approximately 2″ x 5.5″ each). Cut each rectangle into a leaf shape, and make small cuts around the edges so it better resembles a palm frond.

palm leavesTape the palm fronds to the paper towel tube (I taped mine to the inside of the tube, but younger children might find it easier to tape them to the outside). To make coconuts, cut small circles out of the brown construction paper, then attach them to the tree with little loops of tape.

palm treeAt this time, I’d like to give a shout out to Anou, age 8, who came up with the coconut portion of our craft. I was in our library’s program area, trying to find a way to make three-dimensional looking coconuts that didn’t require hot glue. Anou walked up, offered the tape loop suggestion, and it looks great! Brilliant Anou, thanks!

With the house and tree complete, it’s time to make your base. Start with a 8″ x 9″ piece of corrugated cardboard (I cut ours from copy paper boxes). Use the glue stick to attach green construction paper to one side of the base. Then hot glue the house and the tree to the top of the base. It’s important to keep the house and the tree fairly close together in the center of the base. This will keep your island balanced while it’s floating on water.

fairly close togetherOnce the house and tree are attached, add a little landscaping with green construction paper fringes and flower stickers (or just draw flowers on the base with markers). We also used red file label stickers to create stepping stones leading to the front door of the house.

stepping stonesTo make your island and sailboats float, you’ll need 20 corks. Since we needed to prepare enough supplies for 24 kids, we needed lots of corks (480 to be exact). So we hit up a couple local wine shops and bars (thank you Public Wines, Cool Vines, Princeton Corkscrew, and Yankee Doodle Tap Room). But the real jackpot was a restaurant called Mediterra. They had THESE stashed in their kitchen. Woo hoo!

corks To make your island’s “cork stilts,” begin by hot gluing 4 corks together like this:

four corksRepeat this step three more times until you have 4 stilts (composed of four corks each). Hot glue the stilts to the bottom of the cardboard base like so:

cork stilts on baseWe had to do a little trial and error to determine the total number of corks needed to get this project to work. You can turn our experimentation into story time science by doing the following…

Fill a dish tub with water and set it on a table. Have three different bases prepped. The first base is cardboard with no corks.

base 1

The second base is cardboard with cork stilts. The stilts are two corks each.

base 2The third base has cork stilts too. These stilts are 4 corks each.

base 3

  1. Start by saying “Let’s take a look at these bases and predict which one will work best for our island.” After the kids make their predictions, say “Time to test them out!”
  2. Place Base 1 in the tub. It will immediately become saturated. Ask “What happened? What do we need to change to make this float and stay dry?”
  3. Place Base 2 in the water. It will float, but barely above the water. Eventually, water will begin saturating into the bottom and edges of the base. Ask “Is this any better? What’s the problem now?”
  4. Place Base 3 in the water. The base will float above the water, keeping the island dry. Say “It finally worked! Any guesses why?”

During the experiment, you can refer to the concepts of saturation, density and buoyancy. A cork floats on the water because it is less dense than the water. This gives the cork buoyancy, meaning that upward force on the cork is equal to the weight of the cork. The cardboard base, however, was just too heavy for the 2 cork stilts. As a result, Base 2 sunk down and got wet. But Base 3, the 4 cork stilts, did the trick! They gave the island enough buoyancy to lift the cardboard (and the house & tree) above the water level.

Time for sailboats! Cut a small sail (mine were about 2″ tall) out of white construction paper, and color both sides with markers. Hot glue the sail to one side of a cork (make sure the paper doesn’t extend below the cork). Then, hot glue a second cork next to the first.

cork boatWe discovered that, as the corks get wet, the water seeps up the sail, pulling the ink with it. This is capillary action…in action!

before and after boatsIf you’d like to turn the sailboat activity into a quick science lesson, create the boat you see in the “Before” photo above. For best results, make sure the marker extends all the way to the base of the paper sail. Fill a dish tub or plastic plate with water. Then:

  1. Show the kids the boat. Say: “This sailboat needs a little more decoration. Want to see a super cool way to decorate the sail – without drawing on it?”
  2. Place the sailboat in the water. It takes a few minutes to really get started, so you might have to go for a couple rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while you wait.
  3. Talk briefly about capillary action (i.e. the ability of water to flow up or though something – sometimes in defiance of gravity itself) and how they just observed the water moving up the paper sail, carrying the ink with it!
  4. If you’d like, you can prep a bunch of sailboats with different color inks, and see if the different colors move up the sail at different rates.

And that’s it! Your island and sailboats are complete! Float them in a bathtub, dish tub, baby pool, water table, or, in my case, the giant fountain outside of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs (that’s Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads you see in the background). The perfect place for an island getaway, yes?

fountainLooking for some more island experiments? Do you like coconuts? Check out this post!